Christ in the Old Testament (Part IX)

Christ in the Old Testament, Christian Living, Theology

Christ in the OT 9 Christ the Wisdom of God

Christ: The Wisdom of God

The NT encourages us, “To reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col 2:2-3). This comes on the heels of Jesus himself saying, “The queen of the South will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and behold, something greater than Solomon is here” (Matt 12:42), a passage we saw in our post on typology.

Solomon was of course known for his wisdom. God basically gave him one wish where he could have anything he wanted. “Ask what I shall give you” (2Ch 1:7), God said. “Give me now wisdom and knowledge” (10), was his answer. God was very pleased with this response, because Solomon did not ask for “possessions, wealth, honor, or the life of those who hate you … or even long life” (11), or might I add like I probably would have done, a thousand more wishes(!). So, “God gave Solomon wisdom and understanding beyond measure … Solomon’s wisdom surpassed the wisdom of all the people of the east and all the wisdom of Egypt … And people of all nations came to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and from all the kings of the earth, who had heard of his wisdom” (1Kgs 4:29, 30, 34). Somehow Christ is greater than this, but how?

A common way of answering this question is by demonstrating how wise Jesus actually was. Or, to put it another way, by going to the NT. Throughout his ministry, he was constantly outsmarting the Pharisees or teaching the Scripture with authority that no one else had. This is all necessary to know, but I have something else in mind in this post. This is a series on Christ in the Old Testament. So how might Christ be the Wisdom of God in the OT?

Wisdom at Creation

Let us remember that Solomon was the author of most of the Proverbs, including Proverbs 8. The end of this chapter has a rather extended and fascinating claim made by Wisdom:

 

   22 The LORD possessed me at the beginning of his work, the first of his acts of old.

  23 Ages ago I was set up, at the first, before the beginning of the earth.

  24 When there were no depths I was brought forth, when there were no springs abounding with water.

  25 Before the mountains had been shaped, before the hills, I was brought forth,

  26 before he had made the earth with its fields, or the first of the dust of the world.

  27 When he established the heavens, I was there; when he drew a circle on the face of the deep,

  28 when he made firm the skies above, when he established the fountains of the deep,

  29 when he assigned to the sea its limit, so that the waters might not transgress his command,

when he marked out the foundations of the earth,

  30 then I was beside him, like a master workman, and I was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always,

  31 rejoicing in his inhabited world and delighting in the children of man.

(Prov 8:22-31).

Clearly, this does not refer to Solomon. But it does seem to refer to someone, that is a person.

There are many fascinating correlations here to the creation episode of Genesis 1. Several words are found in both passages: beginning, the deep, water, sea, heaven, earth, and man. The Targum’s interpretation of Genesis 1:1 seems to have Proverbs 8 in mind. “From the beginning with wisdom the Memra of the Lord created and perfected the heavens and the earth.” Notice the link between the word (“Memra”) and the wisdom of God. Almost all of the words we have been considering in these last posts are related very closely in the texts, because they are all talking about the same Person. Combining the power and wisdom of God at creation, the Apostle says, “Christ [is] the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Cor 1:24).

wisdomOne final set of texts is worth looking at. Jesus tells the Pharisees, “Therefore also the Wisdom of God said, ‘I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and persecute’” (Luke 11:49). No one knows if Jesus is referring to some lost text or to the whole OT (much the same way that Hebrews 11:33-38 does). But in the parallel account Jesus says, “Therefore I [Jesus] send you prophets and wise men and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and persecute from town to town” (Matt 23:34). Clearly, Jesus sees himself as Wisdom, the one who revealed the future to us through prophecy and typology in the OT, the one who created the world. In the next post, we will look at the strangely related idea of Christ as the Son of God in the OT. The next time you read through Proverbs or any other wisdom book, do more than think of it as wise and practical advice. Think of Christ as being both the giver and fulfiller of all that wisdom, for he is the Wisdom of God.

(By: Doug Van Dorn)

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